Architecture is a combination of all the parts that make the whole. It is the meticulous thought given to actualize an idea. Architecture as a profession has undergone a shift from just being a basic commodity for shelter to being a necessity, a masterpiece to be made accessible to all. While Architecture takes the paramount spotlight, there is a small integral component that makes up architecture called detail. Architectural details is a small piece of the whole, with the capacity to characterize and define space or our surroundings. It explains to us the building’s idea, essential to the usability and perception of space. Marco Frascari said, “Details are the possibilities of innovation and invention and it is through these that architects can give harmony to the most uncommon and difficult or disorderly environment generated by a culture”. Architectural detail can occur in precise and explicit locations generically, like the intersection of a column to a beam or a floor to wall. Architectural detail can occur within a material itself or between materials to another. 

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Sam Crawford Architects. Newtown Contemporary Staircase. Photograph. Sydney

Components of Architectural Detail

According to (Edward, 1992), (Welder, 1991), three components that constitute Architectural Detail are:


The need for details arises to solve a fundamental problem. The conveying of the function of material greatly affects its subsequent meaning. Elements of architecture should retain their utility as they can be used as an ornament, but if they are to have meaning, their function must be ascertained and defined. The function of detail brings with it an association of space or building, it invokes a feeling of familiarity, it affects how cleanable a surface would be, how a material will be open or sealed to keep weathering from happening. Architectural detailing as regards its function affects the aging of buildings and should give room for maintenance access. Its function must be listed, analyzed, and prioritized and irrelevant details removed. It should be scrutinized to create only the best suited to solve a fundamental problem.


The knowledge of the material’s function is not sufficient, the construction methodology needed to couple the materials should be known. The construction of details involves the opportunities it provides, its limitations to using, and joinery type. Architectural detail shows the construction process which highlights the ease of assemblage, which means its flexibility for modification of small inaccuracies and minor mistakes, the efficient construction resources like tools, facilities, and labor to be used. It deals with how details can be simple, production intensive, or readily available. In the flexibility of assembly, the modern architecture industry has involved many cases of architects who designed fixed unforgiving details that made their projects alienated with construction costs and schedules out of control while on the other hand, traditional details have been made flexible. These details have evolved by incorporating features that made them easy to construct, these details include dimensional lenience, finishes application, adjustable and sliding fits. 


Details should bring out the beauty of ordinary materials and be essential to its style, meaning wood finish for warm texture, concrete for an exposed or cool texture. Details help contribute to the proportional share of a building’s overall style. Architectural detail helps to unify the visual composition of material elements that might otherwise seem disjointed or unrelated. “Detailing is no more deterministic than design. It is simply a design process informed by technology what was, is and can be” by Edward R Ford. Detailing requires a ready familiarity with construction materials, tools, processes, and standards. 

In the three components highlighted, it can be deduced that architectural detail would mean a process that establishes with considerable precision both the technical means of function, construction alongside its interior and exterior appearance.

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Rubyspolaroid photography (2021) Fresh forte Restaurant. Photograph. Lagos

The Impact of Architectural Detail

The impact of architectural details involves the knowledge of time management, it makes us develop a sixth sense when articulating the building space around us. Knowing that man primarily makes decisions and registers things of note in the subconscious, the display of details through material elements, invokes an emotional response that could be polarizing between people, institutions, regions, countries, and possibly continents like the traditional styles. This decision makes people choose a style or be associated with a style over another. For example, Japanese architecture, Scandinavian architecture, Cottage architecture, and the list goes on. 

These architectural details have patterns that can be seen in their composition ranging from the type of material which includes, material discontinuity, adhesive, connectors, fasteners, and interlocking. When these details are properly evaluated and handled precisely, they transit a troubling issue to an excellently executed space. To know architectural detail is to know mastery of its components to solving construction problems and gaining an understanding of the built structure around us. Mastery comes through studying, learning, experimentation, trial, and error all bounded up by time and opportunity.

To see the impact of architectural details is to be aware of a consistent theme being carried out through the architects’ idea. An awareness that the architect expended much time and expertise on its creation and form. This idea shows in the breathability or sealed joinery of different materials, its color palette, proportion, and visual presence. To further buttress Edward’s point, the authenticity of materials either in the raw or processed form should be taken into consideration in architectural detail planning to review and judge quality.

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WA Design Architect. Contemporary Exterior. Photograph. San Francisco

In conclusion, architectural detail is the element between elements, the space between the seen and unseen, its shapes our interaction and awareness of its idea. It articulates depth fully, leading us further to understand, explore and appreciate the space conceived around us, to know the reasons why they fail or are a successful piece of artistry. Without architectural detail, our surroundings are incomplete.

Citations – Harvard Referencing Style

Bud, D. (2018). The truth about ‘simple’ modern details. Houzz. Retrieved from [Accessed: 21 October, 2021].

Cecil, C. (1976). Everyday details. London: The Architectural Press Ltd.

Edward, A. (1992). Architectural Detailing. John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Eric, S. (2013). Architecture: How Details makes all the difference. Houzz. Retrieved from [Accessed: 21 October, 2021].

Ford, E. R. (1990). The Details of Modern Architecture. Cambridge: MA: M.I.T Press.

Weber, P. D (1991). Beyond Bolts: Architectural Details, Construction, Meaning. Thesis (M. Arch). Cambridge: Massachusetts institute of technology. 


Victory Udoh-King is an Architecture creative by profession. She is interested in the built environment, and also in the becoming of an architect best suited for the challenges arising from an evolving world. She loves contemporary jazz and architecture shows.